Citing privacy concerns, the Alameda County Department of Public Health has declined to publicly share information about how many Oaklanders have died due to COVID-19. 

But, as Berkeleyside recently reported, the county coroner’s office also maintains this data and has made it available to the public. The coroner’s office makes a record of every death due to COVID-19 in the county by pulling this information from death certificates.

To examine the toll that the coronavirus has taken on different communities in our city, The Oaklanside requested the data—including race, age, and gender—earlier this month.

The numbers reflect what’s already known about the pandemic: Black people are not only disproportionately catching the virus, they’re also dying from it at a higher rate compared to other racial groups. The coroner’s data shows that elderly Black Oakland residents are experiencing especially bad outcomes.

Between March of last year and Jan. 16, 2021, 176 Oakland residents died due to COVID-19. Of these people, 67 were Black, or 38% of the city’s total COVID-19 deaths. Black people make up about 24% of the city’s total population. 

Latinos have also been heavily impacted by COVID-19. Locally, Latinos are more likely to catch COVID-19 than other racial groups, and Fruitvale and East Oakland have been especially hard hit by the virus. In Oakland, Latinos accounted for the second largest number of deaths at 38, or 22% of the city’s total. Latinos make up about 26% of Oakland’s total population.

White people accounted for 18% of Oakland’s COVID-19 deaths while making up 29% of the city’s population, and Asian and Pacific Islanders represented 12% of the fatalities while making up 15% of the city’s residents.

The different outcomes with respect to race have a lot to do with inequalities in the healthcare system and broader society that have put Black people and Latinos at higher risk of contracting the virus, and placed Black people at higher risk of being hospitalized and dying from the virus.

Like everywhere else, age also played a major factor in terms of COVID-19 fatalities. The average age of Oakland residents who have died of COVID-19 is 75 years. According to the county coroner’s data, eight people under the age of 50 have died due to the coronavirus in Oakland, And no one under age 37 has had a fatal case of COVID-19. The disease has mostly claimed the lives of Oakland’s elders.

The average age of those who died from causes linked to the coronavirus varied little between different racial groups, except for Latinos. Asian, Black, and white people who died from the virus were an average age of between 77 and 80 years old, but more young Latino Oaklanders have died due to COVID-19, resulting in an average age of 66.

The state and county vaccination plan currently prioritizes people 75 years and older for getting the vaccine because the virus is so dangerous for them.

Men accounted for 57% of Oakland’s COVID-19 deaths, or 100 of the total 176. Researchers have noted this gender gap in coronavirus fatalities across the world and are studying the possible cultural and biological factors that have led to more men dying.

Many of Oakland’s fatal COVID-19 cases occurred in hospitals, including Kaiser’s Oakland Medical Center, Sutter Alta Bates, Highland Hospital, and in hospitals in neighboring cities. Most of the remaining deaths occured in nursing homes, while a handful occured in private homes scattered around the city.

The city’s first COVID-19 death occurred on March 26, 2020. As with the rest of the nation, Oakland experienced three spikes in deaths, the first in the spring, a larger increase in the summer around August, and a large recent spike in December that has started to taper off.

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.